Fire by fjzhangweiqun


									                                                                   Naturalist‘s Notebook 2004 - Chapter Four

An Example from Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks’ Fire Information

A Message from Jody Lyle, Fire Information and Education Specialist – I look forward to
working with each of you this summer to communicate with the public about fire and fuels
management. It‘s a complex and exciting topic that I hope you will find challenging, whether you
are a first-year seasonal or a ten-year veteran.

Each year as I sit down to update the Naturalist Notebook, I am faced with the challenge of
making all this information accessible, especially for brand new employees. Since it is simply
impossible to cover all issues related to fire in this notebook, you need to supplement your
studies with other materials. Please refer to the ―Study Guide and Free Goodies‖ section for my

If you have additional questions about fire management, contact me at ext. 3703. I am happy to
help with subject matter in your fire interpretive programs, to loan out fire props, and to
brainstorm ideas for audience activities.

Contents of Fire Section:

   The Fire and Fuels Management Program at SEKI
   Fire Resource Objectives: Structure and Process
   The Big Debate: Burning or Logging
   Annual Area Burned

Summer/Fall 2006
   Planned Projects for 2006
   Current Fire Research
   Fire Monitoring and Ecology
   Opportunities for Interpretive Roving During Fire Operations
   SEKI Fire and Fuels Management Personnel (by division)
   Study Guide and Free Goodies

Brush Up on the Facts
   Climate Change and Fire
   Fire Dependence
   Fire History
   Sugar Pine Mortality
   Season of Burning
   Controlling Cheatgrass
   Insects and Fire
   Lodgepole Pine Fire Return Intervals
   Xeric Conifer Vegetation
   Sudden Oak Death and Fire

Operational Information
   How to Plan and Complete a Prescribed Burn

                                                        Naturalist‘s Notebook 2004 - Chapter Four

   Role-Playing Public Contacts About Smoke
   Bad Fire Seasons and the Wildland Urban Interface

                                                                      Naturalist‘s Notebook 2004 - Chapter Four


The Fire and Fuels Management Program at SEKI
To set the stage for the rest of this section, we must logically begin with an overview of the fire
and fuels management program in these parks. How and why do we manage fire? Where does
our direction come from?

The most important document for a park fire program is the Fire and Fuels Management Plan
(FFMP). This Plan explains how fire will be managed at a particular site and it is a requirement
for any park wishing to ―use‖ fire for the benefit of the ecosystem. National Park Service policy,
articulated in Directors Order 18 - Wildland Fire Management and Reference Manual RM-18,
requires that all parks with vegetation capable of supporting fire develop a fire management
plan. If an NPS site lacks this plan, every fire in its area must be suppressed. SEKI finalized a
new FFMP in November 2003.

Let‘s start with the big picture. If you try to search for the overarching authority for carrying out a
fire and fuels management program, you would probably begin with the Organic Act of the
National Park System (August 25, 1916). This act states that the primary goal of the National
Park Service is to preserve and protect the natural and cultural resources found on lands under
its management in such manner as will leave them unimpaired for future generations. In
reference to fire, this issue of impairment means we need to maintain fire‘s natural role in the
environment. The exclusion of fire from fire-adapted ecosystems would considerably impair
those resources.

Direction for an FFMP also comes from park-level documents, as well as national policy and
legislation mentioned above. SEKI‘s Master Plan (pg. 10) states that "fire has been an important
element in the environment of this locality since time immemorial. Fire, therefore, should be
restored to its natural role in the environment."

When SEKI updated the FFMP, we held scoping meetings to find out from the public what they
liked or didn‘t like about our program. Using their feedback and the most recent scientific data,
we developed different alternatives for the future of the program. The impacts of these
alternatives were outlined in a draft Environmental Assessment (EA). The implementation
procedures for the program were written in the draft Fire and Fuels Management Plan (FFMP).
The draft documents were released for a 45-day public review period on April 16, 2003. After
reviewing public comments, the park Superintendent chose an alternative that met resource
objectives, protected personnel/public health and safety, and ultimately caused no impairment
of park resources.

For the next decade, this plan will provide a solid foundation and direction for the fire
management program to maintain our priceless natural resources and protect local
communities. The plan outlines a multi-strategy approach utilizing eight major tools or
strategies. By using these different tools at the right times and in the right locations, we can take
advantage of fire‘s positive benefits and also reduce its harmful effects.

The parks have an overarching mission statement that guides the entire fire and fuels program.
Based on this mission, there are three goals and four objectives (see table). In order to
accomplish these goals and objectives, the parks have defined the eight major tools that we
use. Think of it like a ―management toolbox.‖ According to a particular situation, managers pull
out the appropriate tool for the job. The flexibility we gain as a result of this range of tools is the

                                                                    Naturalist‘s Notebook 2004 - Chapter Four

strength of the parks‘ program. Below are brief definitions of all eight tools. Please remember to
study these terms in the context of the table. For example, prescribed fire is not the goal of our
program; it is a tool to help achieve a larger objective like ecosystem restoration.

1) Preparedness Activities – This term describes any actions that enhance the parks‘ ability
   to respond to unplanned wildland fires or manage prescribed fires. These actions include:
   annual safety training, firefighter certification training (red-card), daily weather/fire danger
   monitoring, prevention signing, and fire readiness reviews (the inspection and testing of
   engines and crews), etc.

2) Wildland Fire Use – This term describes the management of lightning-caused fires for
   resource benefit. A naturally-caused fire that has the potential to achieve resource goals,
   without harming people or property, can be permitted to burn and will be monitored closely.
   Other shortened term: fire use.

3) Wildland Fire Suppression – This term describes the suppression of unwanted wildland
   fires. Other shortened terms: fire suppression or suppression.

4) Prescribed Fire – This term describes the practice of igniting fires in specific areas under
   prescribed conditions to: 1) imitate the natural role of fire, 2) reduce hazardous fuel buildups,
   3) propagate fire-dependent species, 4) increase species diversity, and 5) maintain historic

5) Mechanical Fuel Reduction – This term describes the reduction of hazardous fuels through
   the use of equipment such as chainsaws, axes, rakes, shovels, etc. Mechanical fuel
   reduction can also include burning slash piles. Other terms: mechanical projects or
   mechanical treatments.

6) Public Information and Education – This term describes the parks‘ efforts to communicate
   with park visitors, employees, local communities, students/teachers, media, and
   scientific/professional peers. As interpreters, you are part of this tool when you answer
   questions at visitor centers, rove high-use areas, talk to visitors on the phone, and give
   interpretive programs. It is your responsibility to give accurate and timely information.

7) Monitoring – This term describes the short- and long-term monitoring programs in the park
   that assess the effects of fire management activities on cultural and natural resources in the
   parks. Using feedback from ongoing monitoring results, the fire management program can
   adapt to changing needs with the best available information. Monitoring is essential to
   determine if management objectives are achieved, as well as to detect unexpected and
   undesired consequences of management activities.

8) Research – This term describes the important science research that takes place in these
   parks. Research serves two primary purposes in relation to fire management. First, it helps
   to define natural fire regimes and the range of natural conditions that serve as ecological
   foundations for the application of fire in park ecosystems. Second, it can evaluate actions
   used to restore and/or perpetuate desired conditions.

                                                                                                                                                                        Naturalist‘s Notebook 2004 - Chapter Four

Fire and Fuels Management Program: Mission, Goals, Objectives, and Tools

                                                                                                                                                           Prescribed Fire

                                                                                                                                           Wildland Fire
                                                                                                                           Wildland Fire






    Fire & Fuels
 Management Mission                                                                   Program
     Statement                      Fire Management Goals                            Objectives

―The fire and fuels          Protect and restore the parks’                 1. Manage all unplanned
                             ecological, cultural, and social values.                                            X              X               X
management program at                                                       wildland fires appropriately.
Sequoia and Kings            Ecological values include vegetation,
                             water, wildlife, natural processes, and air
Canyon National Parks
                             resources. Cultural values include
seeks to benefit park        prehistoric and historic cultural sites,       2. Plan and implement
resources and society by     historic structures, and contemporary          appropriate treatments to            X                                                       X           X
restoring and maintaining    structures, both government-owned and          reduce the threat to values
the natural fire regime in   private. Social values include park            from unwanted wildland fire
a manner consistent with     employees, visitors, neighboring               and restore or maintain
firefighter and public       communities, and wilderness.                   ecological values.
                             Reduce fire hazards in park
                             ecosystems. Fire hazard is defined as
                             those attributes that affect the ability to    3. Understand the
                             control fires, or contribute to extreme fire   consequences of fire                                                                                                  X                  X          X
                             behavior. Fuel conditions can be               management actions.
                             effectively altered by management actions
                             and are the focus of most fuel hazard
                             reduction activities.                          4. Provide current and
                             Reduce risk of unwanted wildland fire.
                                                                            accurate information on              X                                                                                X
                             Risk is defined as the probability of new      wildland fire and fuels
                             fire starts, whether by human or natural       management activities to the
                             ignitions (lightning). The focus of the risk   public, our workforce, and
                             portion of the fire program is to reduce the   cooperating agencies.
                             probability of unwanted human ignitions.

                                                           Naturalist‘s Notebook 2004 - Chapter Four

Fire Resource Objectives: Structure and Process
As you give interpretive programs this summer, a visitor might ask you, ―How does the
park know that prescribed fires are really helping the Big Trees?‖ This is a great question
and it allows you to explain our prescribed fire objectives.

Throughout the program‘s 37-year history (1969-2006), the standard objective for
prescribed burning has been to reduce hazardous fuels by 60-95% within the burn
perimeter. The fuel reduction objective was established to respond to the most
significant threat to the forest – the unnatural accumulation of dead and down fuels. The
objective is achievable and easily measurable through post-burn fire effects monitoring.

While the hazard fuel reduction objective has been adequate for the initial prescribed
burns in an area (restoration burns), the program is evolving and in need of more
sophisticated objectives. The parks are now conducting more reburns (2nd and 3rd
generation prescribed burns) where fuel reduction is no longer the only priority. For
example, the Broken Arrow segment in Giant Forest had a prescribed burn in June of
1985, and was reburned in October of 1998 to mimic the natural fire return interval of 5-
20 years for giant sequoia groves. As a result, park scientists are beginning to look more
closely at structure and process objectives. What does this mean? First, let‘s define the

   Structure – Using the metaphor of a patchwork quilt, there are two ways of thinking
    about forest structure. First, we can look at the blanket as a whole, which represents
    a large landscape that is a collection of various pieces. In a quilt these pieces are
    made of colorful fabric; in the forest they are “patches” of vegetation and “gaps” or
    holes in the forest canopy. The structure of these patches and gaps, or the way they
    are ―sewn‖ together, creates a cohesive unit where every piece is important. Second,
    on a smaller scale, we can define forest structure in terms of the specific patches
    and gaps. What is the overall composition of each patch (i.e. the vertical/horizontal
    arrangement of species, the number and age distribution of species, and the ratio of
    one species to another within the patch)? If you are really focusing on the idea of
    forest structure in your program, it might be fun to use an actual quilt as a prop to
    discuss patches and gaps.

   Process – The character of fire as a natural process across the landscape with
    respect to return interval, fire size, intensity, and season.

Here at SEKI, we now have restoration objectives for our prescribed burns that describe
the forest structure we are working toward. Table 1 below reveals the parks‘ structural
targets for different vegetation types. Let‘s look at one, the giant sequoia-mixed
conifer, as an example. The structural target is expressed in terms of the total tree
density. In giant sequoia-mixed conifer, scientists are aiming for a total of 60-325
trees/hectare. This target is separated into two size classes, greater than and less than
80 cm DBH (diameter at breast height). Researchers generally agree that trees 80 cm or
larger were established prior to Euroamerican settlement.

Table 1 also shows our monitoring results over time for each vegetation type. As you
can see, the parks are meeting the structural targets for the giant sequoia-mixed conifer
vegetation type after prescribed burning. Take a look at the other vegetation types too.

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The targets are broad to allow for the natural range of variability. They were determined
using the best available information, including research data, historic photographs,
written accounts, and expert opinion. Development of target conditions is ongoing, and
any new knowledge gained about past conditions will be used to further refine the fire
program objectives.

In most areas of the parks, once structural restoration goals are achieved, the park will
rely on natural process goals (lightning-ignited fires) to maintain forest structure. In some
areas close to developments or park boundaries where it is difficult to manage natural
ignitions, the parks will use prescribed fire to simulate the natural fire process.

Table 1

  Monitoring             Management Objective                     Monitoring Results                     Objective
    Unit                     (Restoration)                      (80% confidence interval)                Achieved?
                   60-95% total fuel reduction            Total fuel reduction = 71-81%              YES
 Giant sequoia-                                           (n=28 plots, 18 fires)
 mixed conifer     5-yr postburn stand density:           Stand density =
 forest            50-250 trees/ha <80 cm DBH             190-256 trees/ha <80 cm DBH
                   10-75 trees/ha ≥ 80 cm DBH             34-46 trees/ha ≥ 80 cm DBH                 YES
                                                           (n=29 plots, 18 fires)
                   5-yr postburn stand composition: 40-   Fir = 77.8%
                   80% fir, 10-40 sequoia, 5-20% pine     Sequoia = 10%
                                                          Pine = 10%
                                                          (n=30 plots, 18 fires)                     YES

                   60-95% total fuel reduction            total fuel reduction = 62-85%              YES
 White fir-mixed                                          (n=11 plots, 7 fires)                      but minimum
 conifer forest                                                                                      sample size not
                   5-yr postburn stand density:           stand density =                            NO for trees <80
                   50-250 trees/ha <80 cm DBH             272-356 trees/ha <80 cm DBH                cm DBH;
                   10-75 trees/ha ≥ 80 cm DBH             28-44 trees/ha ≥ 80 cm DBH                 YES for trees
                                                          (n=10 plots, 6 fires)                      >80 cm DBH
                   60-95% total fuel reduction            total fuel reduction = 75-93%              YES
 Low elevation-                                           (n=5 plots, 3 fires)
 mixed conifer     5-yr postburn stand density:           stand density =                            Uncertain –
 forest            50-250 trees/ha <80 cm DBH             310-562 trees/ha <80 cm DBH                sample size too
                   10-75 trees/ha ≥ 80 cm DBH             9-35 trees/ha ≥ 80 cm DBH                  small
                                                          (n=5 plots, 3 fires)
 Mechanical        Reduce fuels to < 12 tons/acre         Fuel load = 36 tons/acre                   NO
 Thinning + Pile   immediate post treatment               (total fuel reduction 57%)                  but sample size
 Burning                                                  (n=7, 5 treatments)                        too small
                   Immediate post treatment stand         Stand density =                            YES
                   structure: maximum of 25 trees/acre    9.7 trees/acre < 22.9 cm DBH                but sample size
                   < 22.9 cm DBH                          (n=7, 5 treatments)                        too small

Special Note: Data from mechanical thinning plots suggest density reduction objectives are
being met while we are not successfully meeting our fuel reduction objectives. Increases in fine
fuel from the thinning operations might be responsible for the latter.

Figure 2 shows similar results in graph form for the sequoia-mixed conifer. The SEKI fire
effects crew analyzed data from 27 plots that burned in 17 different prescribed fires
between 1982 and 1991. They visited the plots one year and five years post-burn to
examine changes in stand structure. After a prescribed burn, there was obviously a

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reduction in trees, but the reduction occurred in smaller trees. This indicates that
prescribed fire may reduce ladder fuels while minimizing the effects on larger trees.

In the Figure 2, smaller trees averaged 624.8/ha pre-burn which clearly exceeds target
levels. Five years after the burn, the number of smaller trees dropped to 222.2, within
the target range. This significant reduction of smaller trees was not mirrored in large
trees. Large trees were within the target range pre-burn and remained within that range
five-years after the burn. In addition to overall stand density, Keifer‘s crew detected
changes in the ratio of one tree species to another. The relative density of giant
sequoias in some plots has tripled 10 years after prescribed fire.

Figure 2

Stand density (all species                                700
combined) by diameter
                              Mean Number of Trees / Ha

class in the giant
sequoia-mixed conifer                                     500
forest (n= 27 plots)
                                                          400          Pre-burn    1-Year Post-burn        5-Years Post-burn
preburn, and one and five
years after prescribed                                    300
fire. The target ranges for
trees <80 cm is indicated                                 200
by solid lines, and target                                100              45.5               43.5                        41.8
range for trees >80 cm is                                                                                                            target
indicated by dashed lines                                   0
                                                                < 80      > 80       < 80    > 80            < 80             > 80
(from Keifer).
                                                                                  Diameter Class (cm)

The Big Debate: Burning or Logging
Setting new structural objectives is one issue; how to achieve these new targets is
another. The researchers here at SEKI believe that our structure targets in sequoia
groves can be achieved through the use of prescribed fire only (as shown in the
monitoring data above).

The following information comes from USGS Research Ecologist, Nate Stephenson‘s
paper called Reference Conditions for Giant Sequoia Forest Restoration: Structure,
Process, and Precision.

NPS policy directs us to ―restore natural conditions,‖ but there is debate over how this
should be done. Some people are ―structural restorationists‖ (researchers like
Bonnicksen and Stone) who believe that forest structure should be restored
mechanically, by logging, before fire is reintroduced. In contrast, ―process
restorationists,‖ led by NPS scientists and managers in the Sierra Nevada, argue that
the simple reintroduction of fire is appropriate. They believe that the mechanical removal
of trees is not a necessary step in restoration, especially in sequoia groves. After
reexamining the arguments of both ―camps‖ and available research results, Stephenson
concludes that ―within the limits of our knowledge of pre-Euroamerican forest conditions,
process restoration alone can restore or sustain several aspects of sequoia grove

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structure‖ (p. 1261). There is a possible hybrid approach by using prescribed fire with
limited mechanical intervention, such as the removal of fuels from the bases of selected
old-growth trees without resorting to tree-cutting (p. 1259).
Some additional points:
 Within the ―structural vs. process‖ debate, both groups recognize the importance of
    reintroducing fire. The structuralists just think that mechanical treatments need to
    occur first.
 While fire might lead to restoration in groves, there are three things to remember:
    1) In some areas fuel accumulations are now so great that prescribed fires might kill
        more old-growth pines than would have died if fire had never been excluded.
    2) It might take longer to restore some aspects of forest structure with fire than with
        tree-cutting followed by fire.
    3) There is no hope of restoring some aspects of forest structure in less than a few
        centuries regardless of a structural or process approach.
 Despite the three caveats listed above, the NPS still uses fire. Issues include:
    1) The lack of accessibility for mechanical treatment (and inappropriateness of
        building logging roads).
    2) Some groves are in legally-designated wilderness.
    3) Fire is the most conservative tool for restoring and maintaining sequoia
        ecosystems, and the least likely to leave us with unexpected surprises down the
 Stephenson‘s discussion is limited to giant sequoia groves. He points out that in
    some other vegetation types it may be that ―fire cannot be reintroduced without a
    high potential for unnaturally severe effects, suggesting that preceding mechanical
    treatment may sometimes be necessary and appropriate‖ (p. 1262).

Annual Area Burned
1 hectare = 2.47 acres / MGMT = prescribed fires and fire use / NMGMT = suppression fires
PEA Rmax = average area burned pre-euroamerican (we are still not meeting this average)

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Planned Projects for 2006
The fire and fuels management program at Sequoia and Kings
Canyon National Parks tries to protect ecosystems and
communities. This important work is accomplished by restoring
fire's natural role in the environment and by reducing hazardous
fuels. Each year, managers prepare an Annual Fuels Treatment
Plan that lists all the approved prescribed burns and mechanical
fuel reduction projects that will help the parks accomplish goals.

The table below identifies the planned projects for 2006. There are
10 projects totaling 3,042 acres (9 burn projects and 1 mechanical project). Three
additional mechanical projects may be implemented if additional funding is available.
This list is only a guide. It will be updated as projects are completed and/or changed.
Since the execution of burns depends on air quality conditions, fire workload, fuel
moistures, and weather, the times listed here are estimates only.

        A Word about Scheduling – Carrying out a prescribed burn program is not like
        making a shopping list. We can‘t methodically walk down each isle and ―check
        off‖ our items. Fire managers must remain flexible and choose the right project
for the current conditions, both natural and political. Scheduling burns is more like
completing a puzzle. We need to find the ―piece‖ or project that best fits into the
surrounding landscape. We all know that you don‘t put a puzzle together row by row; it‘s
assembled creatively and with a little bit of luck (in this case usually weather).

 Area of Park              Project Name                  Project Type         Acres                  Timing
Ash Mountain
                  Ash Mountain / Hospital Rock       Burn                             25    Late-Spring
Mineral King
                    Silver                           Burn                            354    Fall
                    Davenport                        Burn                            881    Fall
Giant Forest / Lodgepole / Dorst
                    Wall Spring                      Burn                            175    Summer
                    Cabin Meadow                     Burn                            441    Summer
                    Wuksachi Thinning                Mechanical                       10    Summer
Grant Grove
                    Valley View                      Burn                            375    Summer
                    Ella                             Burn                             70    Summer
                    Upper Redwood                    Burn                            619    Summer
Cedar Grove
                    Horse Trail                      Burn                             92    Summer

                                                     TOTAL                       3,042
If Additional Funding is Available
                   Quarry (in Giant Forest)          Mechanical                       53    Summer
                   Wilsonia Thinning                 Mechanical                       89    Summer
                   Cedar Springs (at Grant Grove)    Mechanical                       40    Summer
If you are interested in the specific locations of these segments, please call ext. 3703.

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Current Fire Research
Every year a variety of fire-related research projects occur within Sequoia and Kings
Canyon National Parks. The projects are conducted by the National Park Service, U.S.
Forest Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, and several universities. Tony Caprio (Fire
Ecologist & Fire Research Coordinator, ext. 3126) maintains a webpage with brief
information about each project ( Below are highlights
of three projects.

Learning from the Past: Retrospective Analyses of Fire Behavior in Yosemite and
Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks. JFSP funded 2004; PI Wilderness Institute,
Carol Miller and Anne Black; YOSE, Mike Beasley; SEKI, Anthony Caprio

Yosemite and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks have identified a critical need to be
able to understand and track the consequences of their fire suppression decisions. To
address this local research need, we will use retrospective fire behavior modeling and
risk-benefit assessments for suppressed lightning ignitions that have occurred since
1991 in the two Parks. For the first time, the Parks will be able to quantify the
consequences of their suppression decisions. We will determine where lightning
ignitions would have spread had they not been suppressed and we will assess the
effects that would have resulted from these fires.

Using NASA’s Invasive Species Forecasting System to support National Park
Service Decisions on Fire Management Activities and Invasive Plant Species
Control. NPS PI: Nate Benson, NASA PI: Jeff Morisette, CSU PI: Brad Welch (SEKI fire
ecology liaison: Tony Caprio).

Two major sources of ecological disturbance are fire and invasive species. They are not
independent. Both are major issues affecting land management decisions throughout the
National Park System. The proposed work will allow the National Park Service to
enhance management decisions related to invasive species and fire management. The
approach is to utilize existing Earth Science resources to better understand the
interaction between fire, burnt area, and invasive species, and then to utilize this
understanding to better manage National Park lands in such as way as to respect the
natural ecological significance of fire while guarding against alien plant invasion. The
Earth Science tools to be used are satellite-based active fire and burn scar mapping
available through NASA Earth Observing System (EOS) resources and invasive species
habitat modeling available through the existing, joint NASA/USGS ―Invasive Species
Forecasting System‖ (ISFS). Study areas include Sequoia and Kings Canyon National
Parks, Alaska Region, and Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks with local support
from invasive species managers, fire ecologists, and GIS specialists.

The Sugar Pine Dilemma: Prescription Burning and the Management of a
Declining Species. USGS PI: Phillip van Mantgem. Park-Orientated Biological Studies
BRD Cyclical Funds.

Prescribed fire is a primary tool for forest restoration, but changing forest conditions may
create circumstances where the simple reintroduction of fire may not be sufficient to
achieve some restoration goals. This may be true for sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana) in
the Sierra Nevada of California, where high post-fire mortality coupled with the ongoing
effects of an introduced pathogen (white pine blister rust, Cronartium ribicola) could
contribute to local extinctions. The objective of this study is to determine if fuels removal,

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a simple and cost effective strategy, may help to reduce sugar pine mortality following
prescribed fire. We propose removing fuels in a 0.5 m radius around the base of
individual trees and compare post-fire survivorship between treated and untreated trees.
We will test the effectiveness of the fuels removal treatment at multiple fires to help
managers decide under which conditions the added expense of this treatment might be
most worthwhile.

Fire Monitoring and Ecology
The parks have a 5-person fire effects monitoring crew that maintains vegetation plots in
prescribed burn units and mechanical fuel reduction units. The information gained in
these plots helps assess the effects of fire management activities on cultural and natural
resources. Using feedback from ongoing monitoring results, the fire management
program can adapt to changing needs with the best available information. Monitoring is
essential to determine if management objectives are achieved, as well as to detect
unexpected and undesired consequences of management activities.

During 2005, the fire effects crew ―read‖ 39 fire effects plots. In the 2006 season, the
crew plans to reread about 30 fire effects, plus five rereads of plots that are off schedule,
and four potential preburn rereads of established plots located in areas with burns
planned. Additionally, several new plots may be installed in mechanical or in a new fire
monitoring vegetation type (xeric conifer - Jeffrey pine) depending on burn or thinning
project implementation.

The fire effects crew is also involved in a variety of fire-related projects. These projects
provide valuable input into the SEKI fire management program. Two of many projects
are described below. For more information, contact Karen Webster, fire effects crew lead
at ext. 3735.

Increased Giant Sequoia Sample Size – Because of their great size, mature giant
sequoia tree density is very low in the standard 20 m x 50 m forest plots. To increase the
sample size of giant sequoia, we sample all, or a subset of, giant sequoia trees in
prescribed burn units in the Giant Forest prior to and following prescribed burning. A
total of 983 giant sequoias were sampled in seven separate units burned between 1993
and 1999. This information will provide sufficient sample depth to assess the long-term
effects of prescribed fire on mature giant sequoia trees over a long period of time. While
monitoring continues for trees currently in the study no additional giant sequoias will be

Giant Sequoia Seedlings in Reburns – The fate of giant sequoia reproduction in
second entry burns (following the initial restoration burn) has become an important issue
as the parks conduct more of these type of burns. Some areas of the parks where early-
prescribed burning efforts were concentrated have now surpassed the historic fire return
interval without additional burning. In some of these areas, giant sequoia regeneration of
varying density resulted from the initial burn. Knowledge about fire effects on these
young trees following subsequent prescribed burns is critical, especially given the
importance of giant sequoias and their fire-dependent regeneration. As a result of the
parks‘ interest in this issue, plots were installed in reburn areas beginning in 1988
(expanded in 1997) to specifically assess the reburn mortality/survival of groups of giant
sequoia seedlings established after the initial burn. This information is expected to be

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helpful in making decisions related to reburn scheduling in other areas in the parks. In
addition to continued monitoring of established sites new sampling sites were
established in the Redwood Mountain area during 2005.

Trees of Special Interest Inventory – In response to the ignition of the Washington tree
in 2003 a fire susceptibility inventory for all ―Trees of Special Interest‖ in the parks was
begun. The purpose of the inventory is to identify special interest trees (named in the
Fire and Fuels Management Plan), document their location and condition, and describe
site characteristics around each tree that might influence fire. A number of conditions or
site factors were identified and are being surveyed in the field. Digital photos of each
tree are also being taken. This information can be used during burn plan development
and implementation to assist in; 1) determining if a tree is susceptible to adverse fire
impacts, and 2) developing potential mitigation actions appropriate to minimize these
impacts. The information gathered will be made available as a database, spreadsheet,
and as GIS layer(s).

In early 2005 a workgroup in SEKI established criteria that trees need to meet to be
considered a ―Tree of Special Interest‖. The current list contains 98 trees located in
seven park groves.

Opportunities for Interpretive Roving During Fire Operations
The parks often implement prescribed burns in very visible locations near park roads
and trails. When this occurs, interpreters are assigned to rove in the area and
communicate with visitors, sometimes right on the fireline! It is the perfect environment
to educate people about the fire and fuels management program because it‘s happening
right in front of them. Prescribed fire roving is an amazing opportunity for both visitors
and interpreters!

Interpreters can be selected for these assignments on regular work days with their
supervisor‘s approval. More regularly, however, interpreters agree to rove on their days
off and earn overtime, paid by fire management. If you are interested in a roving
assignment, please contact Jody Lyle at ext. 3703.

If you are assigned to rove at a park fire, please bring/wear the following items: regular
uniform with flat hat, jacket, backpack, park radio, food, water, sunscreen, chapstick,
first-aid kit, vehicle (unless instructed otherwise), and camera (you‘ll be happy you did!).

                                                                         Naturalist‘s Notebook 2004 - Chapter Four

SEKI Fire and Fuels Management Personnel
The Fire and Fuels Management Program is a large, interdisciplinary operation with
approximately 90 employees. Fire managers, crews, researchers, and technicians work
under four different divisions (including USGS).

                               Position Title or                Duty           Name or                 Total
                                Type of Crew                   Station        Captain of             Number of
                                                                                Crew                  People
                            Fire Management Officer            Ash Mtn          vacant                      1
                              Sequoia District FMO             Ash Mtn         Dave Allen                   1
                           Kings Canyon District FMO            Grant         Dave Bartlett                 1
                               Program Assistant               Ash Mtn     Tammy Jennings                   2
and Visitor Management

                                Fuels Specialist               Ash Mtn       Ben Jacobs                     1
                            Assistant Fuels Specialist         Ash Mtn        Leslie Uhr                    1
    Division of Fire

                         Fire Dispatch/Cache Supervisor        Ash Mtn     Georgia Dempsey                  1
                              Fire Cache Manager               Ash Mtn        Gerry Carder                  1
                              Fire Dispatcher(s)               Ash Mtn          Bill Hyatt                 2
                          Smoke and Weather Monitor            Ash Mtn        Joel Metcalfe                1
                             Arrowhead Hotshots                 Grant          Brit Rosso                  20
                                 Engine Crew                    Grant          Larry Smith                  8
                                   Engine Crew                 Ash Mtn          Greg Ver                   8
                                Fire Project Crew              Ash Mtn         Mike Brown                  14
                              Fire Monitoring Crew             Ash Mtn         Ted Young                   7
                                 Helitack Crew                 Ash Mtn        John Ziegler                  8
                         Fire Prevention and Education         Ash Mtn         Nicole Ver                   1
                             Technician (seasonal)

                          Natural Resources Specialist         Ash Mtn        John Austin                   1
Division of

                                  Fire Ecologist               Ash Mtn        Tony Caprio                   1

                               Fire GIS Specialist             Ash Mtn        Karen Folger                  1
                               Fire Effects Crew               Ash Mtn       Karen Webster                  5

                          Fire Information & Education         Ash Mtn          Jody Lyle                   1
Div. of

                             Seasonal Archaeologist            Ash Mtn        Keith Hamm                    1

                                Station Leader                 Ash Mtn       John Keeley                    1

                              Research Ecologist               Ash Mtn     Nate Stephenson                  1

                                                                                    TOTAL                  90

                                                           Naturalist‘s Notebook 2004 - Chapter Four

Study Guide and Free Goodies
Articles & Books
   Fire in America, by Stephen Pyne (in park library)
   Burning Questions: A Social Science Research Plan (Report to National Wildfire
    Coordinating Group)
   Mimicking Nature’s Fire: Restoring Fire-Prone Forests in the West, by Stephen F.
    Arno and Carol E. Fiedler
   Fire: A Force of Nature, The Story Behind the Scenery, (KC Publication)
   The Essential Element of Fire, National Geographic, September 1996

   SEKI Fire Portal (This site links to Current
    Fire Information [including press releases], Fire and Natural Resources [including fire
    research information], Operations and Dispatch [including daily situation report], and
    Planning and Policy [including the Fire & Fuels Management Plan])
   NPS Fire and Aviation Management
   National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC)
   Firewise

Activity Guides for Teachers / Interpreters (borrow from Jody Lyle)
   FireWorks (curriculum for hands-on learning about fire)
   Fire Wars (NOVA curriculum that accompanies special)
   Project Learning Tree guides, curriculum for elementary and secondary students.
   Burning Issues (interactive CD-ROM and Educator‘s Guide)
   Fire Ecology: Resource Management Education Unit
   Wildfire: Feel the Heat (a study guide for the IMAX movie Wildfire)
   Born to Burn: Fire Ecology Curriculum, Grades K-8 (U.S. Forest Service)

Videos / DVDs (Borrow from Jody Lyle)
   Communication Strategies for Fire Management (25 min. - Oregon State University)
   Bear Hill Prescribed Fire, Giant Forest 2001 (12-minute Education Video)
   Fire Wars (2-hour NOVA special featuring our own Arrowhead Hotshots!)
   Wildfire: Feel the Heat (40 minutes, IMAX)
   People, Parks, and Fire (NPS video)
   The Missing Fires (21 minutes, NPS video)
   Firewise Landscaping – Part One: Overview (13 minutes), Part Two: Design and
    Installation (16 minutes), Part Three: Maintenance (9 minutes)
   Building a Firewise Home (20 minutes)
   Making Your Home Firewise (23 minutes)

        Free Goodies to Give Away to Visitors (get from Jody Lyle)

          Wildland Fire in National Parks (a nat‘l brochure, black band like a park map)
          Fire & Fuels Management (SEKI program overview)
          Prescribed Fire in Pacific West Parks (regional brochure)
          Fire Postcards (SEKI specific – also for sale at Visitor Centers)
          Property Owner‘s Guide to Reducing Wildfire Threat (Tulare Co. pamphlet)

                                                                Naturalist‘s Notebook 2004 - Chapter Four

This is vital information for new interpreters and a good review/reference for veteran
interpreters. Several new sections have been added this year.

Climate Change and Fire
As general research about climate change accumulates across many disciplines, fire
researchers are starting to tackle questions about how climate change will affect fire.
The U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station released a recent paper
called The Impact of Climate Change on Wildfire Severity: A Regional Forecast for
Northern California (Jeremy S. Fried, Margaret S. Torn, and Evan Mills). This study
estimates the impact of climate change on wildland fire and suppression effectiveness in
California by simulating fires in three counties: Santa Clara, Amador-El Dorado, and
Humboldt. While the study does not cover the Sierra Nevada, there are many valuable
findings for us to understand. Excerpts from this paper appear below.

For the entire paper, go to:
For an article about the study, go to:

―The warmer and windier conditions corresponding to a 2×CO2 climate scenario
produced fires that burned more intensely and spread faster in most locations. Despite
enhancement of fire suppression efforts, the number of escaped fires (those exceeding
initial containment limits) increased 51% in the south San Francisco Bay area, 125% in
the Sierra Nevada, and did not change on the north coast. Changes in area burned by
contained fires were 41%, 41% and –8%, respectively. When interpolated to most of
northern California‘s wildlands, these results translate to an average annual increase of
114 escapes (a doubling of the current frequency) and an additional 5,000 hectares (a
50% increase) burned by contained fires. On average, the fire return intervals in grass
and brush vegetation types were cut in half.‖

―The paleo record and historical data show that changes in wildfire frequency are closely
linked to changes in climate. Several recent studies tracking trends over the past century
have found that fire frequency and area burned correlated with air temperature, leading
to increased concern over the potential impact of climate change on wildfire severity.‖

―…a double-CO2 climate led to changes in weather-related indices of potential fire
intensity and rate of spread, increases in fire ignitions, and lengthening of the fire

―…some aspects of climate change (e.g., increases in humidity) tend to produce slower
spreading fires while others (e.g., lower precipitation and faster winds) will have the
opposite effect.‖

―By using ‗conservative‘ climate model projections and disregarding various feedbacks,
the estimates reported represent a minimum expected change, or best-case forecast.‖

―In much of California, increased fire frequency (shorter return interval) favors grass and
shrub vegetation over longer-lived vegetation such as forests. These ecosystems show
the greatest susceptibility to fire under current conditions, and fires in these ecosystems

                                                              Naturalist‘s Notebook 2004 - Chapter Four

show the greatest increase in response to climate change. Consequently, the effect of
climatic change on wildfire may be more severe than our model predicts due to fire-
induced changes in vegetation distribution.‖

―Our predicted changes in fire intensity and fire return interval would have repercussions
for California‘s vegetation dynamics, natural resources, and ecosystem services. The
landscape-level effects of wildfire disturbance include landslides, flooding, erosion, and
water-quality impairment. In California, where the majority of sediment entering streams
does so after fires, shorter fire return intervals would affect stream habitats, degrade
water quality, and increase dam siltation and potential flood severity.‖

―In our model results, increases in fire spread rate and intensity had much greater than
expected impact on fire outcomes. Even modest shifts upward in the spread rate
distribution translated to large increases in the number of escapes, because the initial
attack system does not have the resources to handle much more than the current

           As interpreters, we must be honest about climate change and be straight-
           forward with the facts. Do not editorialize, but rather pose questions to visitors
           about the future. Will climate change lengthen fire seasons? Will it increase
           the number of fires that escape initial attack? Will vegetation communities be
able to recover and respond as they have in the past? Tell people what we know, what
we can predict, and what we need to study.

As you read the rest of this chapter concerning what we‘ve known about fire until now,
ask yourself how climate change might alter this ecology.

Fire Dependence
Since fire is a natural component of Sierran ecosystems, many plants and animals have
evolved and adapted to live with fire. Many species do not just survive a burn; they
actually need it for their reproduction. Fire removes fuel accumulations and opens the
forest floor and canopy for new plant life including giant sequoia and sugar pine. It also
recycles nutrients and kills soil pathogens. Giant sequoias show increased growth after
fire, partly due to reduced competition for water and sunlight.

          It‘s always a good idea to find simple metaphors or analogies to describe a
          complex process like fire. In 1996, Michael Parfit wrote an article in National
          Geographic called "The Essential Element of Fire‖ with a particularly good
          description of fire dependence. He said: ―Landscapes dominated by fire-
          dependent or fire-tolerant species will not die if they‘re deprived of fire, but they
will change. It would be like changing the official language of a country. Suddenly a
small group of immigrants would flourish, and even the most able people who could not
learn the new language would struggle to survive.‖

Fire History
Prior to Euroamerican settlement, natural fires occurred in cycles according to climate
and vegetation type. These cycles are episodic; in some places very regular and in
others sporadic. Scientists determine fire frequency by combining data from research on
fire scarred tree rings and historical records of fires in this century. This frequency is

                                                                 Naturalist‘s Notebook 2004 - Chapter Four

called the fire return interval and is expressed as a range of years. The ranges below are
based on the best available information (see bullets). Research is currently underway to
explore the differences in fire return intervals within the same vegetation type based on
aspect (north vs. south). Initial results show that return intervals can be 2-3 times as
frequent on south aspects at mid-elevations with differences decreasing as elevation
increases. This new information is being incorporated into the parks‘ fire history data as
it becomes available. For now the ranges are:

   Foothill Chaparral (30-100 yrs.)
   Meadow Chaparral (40-65 yrs.)
   Foothill Hardwoods and Grasslands (10-17 yrs.)
   Mid-elevation Hardwood Forest (7-23 yrs.)
   Jeffrey Pine Forest (30-50 yrs.)
   Pinon Pine Forest (long intervals, 150+ years)
   Western Juniper (sampling indicates fire is rare to non-existent)
   Ponderosa, Mixed Conifer Forest (4-6 yrs.)
   Giant Sequoia Grove (5-16 yrs.)
   White Fir Mixed Conifer Forest (10-16 yrs.)
   Montane Chaparral (30-75 yrs.)
   Lodgepole Pine Forest (50-163 yrs.)
   Red Fir Forest (30-50 yrs.)
   Subalpine Conifer Forest (187-508 yrs.)

Sugar Pine Mortality
Questions about sugar pine mortality, fire and blister rust have been raised in SEKI and
become controversial. Large tree mortality following prescribed fire is a concern for land
managers attempting to reduce fuels and restore the process of fire in fire-dependent
ecosystems. Information is especially critical in areas where fuels have accumulated
following an unnaturally long fire free period due to past fire exclusion. Pines, including
sugar pine, seem to be especially susceptible to mortality following fire. Whether this
mortality is directly related to returning fire after a long absence in short-return interval
regimes, or a combination of fire and other previously existing stressors, is unknown at
this time.

Research scientists from the USDA Forest Service Riverside Fire Lab found that
removing some of the deep organic layer around trees prior to burning reduces large
tree mortality in some forest types in Arizona. This type of preburn fuel removal may be
an option in areas where large tree mortality is an important sociological or ecological

To examine whether a difference in mortality occurs between trees with fuels removed
and trees without fuels removed fuel was removed in SEKI around large sugar pines in
several prescribed burn units between 1996 and 2003. A total of 40 pairs of trees have
been monitored. Overall mortality (mitigated and unmitigated) by 2005 was 14% in four
burn units. All trees dying were sugar pine (13.5% across the four burn units) and
mortality occurred up to seven-years postfire. However, interestingly, mortality of
mitigated and unmitigated trees was similar (14% and 13% respectively, mitigated and
unmitigated) across all burn units. This suggests little correlation between either
mitigation practice and mortality.

                                                             Naturalist‘s Notebook 2004 - Chapter Four

This study was small in scope (with only 40 pairs of trees). Scientists hope to gather
additional data about sugar pines and fire in a newly funded research project described
previously in the ―Current Fire Research‖ section.

Season of Burning
Prescribed fire is an important tool for reducing fuels and restoring structure and function
to forested ecosystems of the Sierra Nevada. Unfortunately, only a fraction of the
acreage necessary for maintaining a natural fire return interval typically gets burned
each year, due air quality concerns in adjacent populated areas, and the limited time
before winter snows.

Most prescribed burning is currently conducted in the fall to coincide with the normal
historical fire period. This is also the time of year with the poorest air quality. Expanding
the prescribed fire window to include early season burns might reduce air quality
conflicts and allow more acres to be treated. However, the impact of early season
burning on many important ecosystem components is poorly understood.

Nine 15 ha plots were established in Sequoia National Park in 2001. Three plots were
burned in the fall of 2001, three plots were burned in June 2002, and three remained
unburned (controls). Data on fuels, overstory tree density and composition, understory
vegetation, small mammal and bird populations, bark beetles, root pathogens, and soil
nutrient cycling were collected by USGS researchers and other collaborators prior to the
prescribed burns and are being collected post burn.

In general, early season burns did not show more severe effects than late season burns.
Data indicates a great deal of heterogeneity in fire intensity and subsequent tree
mortality within both the early season and late season burn units. Multiple regression
analysis showed that the proportion of the tree basal area composed of pines, together
with the total basal area of all trees explained 26% of the variation in crown scorch
height in the late season burn plots. Areas with high abundance of pines and more trees
burned with the greatest intensity, while areas dominated by fir trees and having fewer
trees burned with lower intensity. Data indicates that early season burns resulted in less
fuel reduction and left more of the area unburned. These islands of unburned habitat
may be important for recolonization by some plant and animal species post fire.

 For more information and published scientific papers, visit the project website at: Investigators: Dylan Schwilk (x4282) and Jon
Keeley (x3170;

Controlling Cheatgrass
Cheatgrass is a highly flammable invasive plant from Europe and Asia that has
unfortunately spread throughout the ponderosa pine forest of Kings Canyon National
Park following prescribed burning in the 1980s. This research project‘s initiation was a
direct response to these observations and the need to understand the potential role fire
may be playing in spreading cheatgrass.

Park managers discontinued the SEKI burn program on the Cedar Grove valley floor in
1998 due to the cheatgrass invasion in the area. The results of this research study were
utilized when making the decision to restart the burn program in 2005. The parks
completed the Roads End Prescribed Fire (152 acres) on the valley floor in May 2005.

                                                           Naturalist‘s Notebook 2004 - Chapter Four

Field sampling began in 2001. As part of the experiment, hundreds of study plots were
burned or treated with different levels of nutrients, fuel, seed, or shade. Researchers
analyzed the success or failure of cheatgrass to grow in each treatment area.

Although many of the treatments had only mild effects on cheatgrass, two yielded
interesting results: shade addition and pine needle addition. Both treatments were
designed to simulate a long fire return interval. One proved to be beneficial while the
other appears to be detrimental to cheatgrass. Shade lengthened the growing season for
cheatgrass by keeping soil moist longer, and this resulted in thicker fields of cheatgrass.
In fire-free plots, two inches of pine needles were very effective at eliminating
cheatgrass, demonstrating at least one reason why this invasive plant is not a problem in
unburned and lightly burned pine forests.

In burned plots, researchers investigated post-burn conditions after a long fire-free
interval. Pre-fire, these plots had excess fuels on the ground mimicking the effects of
long-term fire suppression. Post-fire, cheatgrass appeared on these sites much larger
than usual and with super-abundant seeds.

On a small scale, the use of needles in landscaped areas (such as near parking lots)
would be an effective way to keep cheatgrass out and help slow the spread of seeds into
the backcountry from hiker‘s clothes. On the larger forest-wide scale, lighter burning
would reduce unnaturally high fuel loads yet protect the trees that produce needles and
keep cheatgrass out. Occasional heavy burning would still be required for pine
regeneration. (The Roads End Prescribed Fire was conducted in late spring to achieve
lighter burning conditions.)

Program Manager: Tom McGinnis (x4262, Principal Investigator:
Jon Keeley (x3170, Funding came from the Joint Fire Science

Insects and Fire
Recent studies have shown that some insects have a complex and important
interrelationship with fire. Fire can affect the understory and canopy of a forest
ecosystem, including the tree density and soil properties that directly affect an insect‘s
habitat. Likewise, insect populations can dramatically alter fuel accumulation and
distribution, species composition, and soil surface properties like moisture levels, which
in turn determine fire intensity, behavior, and frequency.

Since insects and fire co-exist in many types of forest ecosystems, insects have
developed adaptations to survive fire regimes and even prosper in the post-fire
conditions. These conditions can create mating, hunting, and egg-laying opportunities.
Which insects take advantage of these opportunities? How and why do they do it?

Several wood-boring species, Monochamus and Melanophila in particular, appear in
great numbers at fire events and often occupy freshly burned roots and stems. The
Melanophila spp. have infrared receptors in tiny holes of each side of their thorax. These
holes contain sensory fingers called sensilla and when exposed to infrared radiation,
cause the cavity to heat and expand pressing a nerve that signals a fire. It is estimated
that these insects can detect a modest-sized fire (20ha) from 5 km. Additionally, these

                                                             Naturalist‘s Notebook 2004 - Chapter Four

same beetles have smoke detectors in their antennae, a capability also seen in several
Monochamus beetles that can orient to the smoke plumes of fires. But why would an
insect want to travel right into the ―heat‖ of a fire?

Nathan Schiff, an entomologist with the US Forest Service, searched fire sites for a
wasp, Syntexis libocedrii, known to lay eggs on freshly burned wood. He found over 20
species of these fire-loving or pyrophilic insects. The Melanophila species rush to the fire
event, mate and lay their eggs in smoking trees. Schiff has seen eager wasps land on
wood so hot that it burns the legs off. Back in 1905, an early-day entomologist named
Ralph Hopping discovered a beetle previously unknown to science, Trachykele
opulentia, on Beetle Rock in Sequoia National Park. This is how Beetle Rock got its
name. Because of later research on pyrophilic insects, we now know that this particular
beetle is a fire-follower that commonly lays eggs in the fire scars of conifers.

Not all pyrophilic insects have smoke detectors or specialized heat sensors. The
attraction to recently burned areas can also be indirect. For example, many bark beetles
are attracted to stressed or injured trees. Fire is one factor that can cause this stress.
Trees injured by fire release a chemical cocktail into the air. This chemical signature is
thought to signal to the insect that the time is right. Focusing on stressed or injured trees
makes sense from the bark beetle‘s perspective. Healthy trees usually have enough
pitch to push bark beetles back out of the entrance holes they are excavating to lay
eggs. This pitch stream can be reduced in injured trees, increasing the probability that
the bark beetle attack will be successful.

Attraction to fire has additional advantages for the bark beetles and other insect species.
Because a fire often damages numerous trees at the same time, this causes hundreds
of eggs to mature and adult beetles to emerge all at the same time. This increases the
chance of finding a suitable mate. The abundance of bark beetles and other fire
followers can also draw in other predatory insects that feed on these species. Thus an
area that has recently burned is attractive because of food resources for these predatory

Fire Suppression Favors Some Insects – Due to fire suppression during the past
century, the density of trees has increased in many areas. Because all of these trees are
utilizing limited water and light resources, individual trees are more likely to become
stressed, especially during drought years. These stressed trees are susceptible to bark
beetle attack. Bark beetle populations may therefore be higher because of fire
suppression. These bark beetles are known to have killed a considerable number of
large centuries-old pines in recent times. In addition, in areas that have not experienced
a natural fire regime, the litter, duff, and woody surface fuels are now much thicker at the
base of many large pines. When fire is returned to the landscape, the potential exists for
greater injury to these trees. These weakened trees are more susceptible to bark

Another consequence of fire suppression has been a shift in the tree species
composition of the forest. Shade-loving trees like firs are now more abundant and sun-
loving trees like pines are less abundant. The high density of firs favors different insect
species, such as the fir engraver, Scolytis ventralis. In 1999/2000, an outbreak of the
Douglas-fir tussock moth (Orygia pseudotsugata) in Sequoia and Kings Canyon killed
many white fir trees, increasing the amount of surface and standing dead woody fuel.

                                                           Naturalist‘s Notebook 2004 - Chapter Four

The tussock moth does not affect pines. This may have temporarily slowed the rate at
which firs are replacing pines. The native moth outbreak, therefore, caused a forest tree
species shift similar to what might be expected as a result of a surface fire.

Lodgepole Pine Fire Return Intervals
Tony Caprio, SEKI Fire Ecologist, released a research paper called Reconstructing Fire
History of Lodgepole Pine on Chagoopa Plateau, Sequoia National Park, California. The
goal of this study was to document past fire occurrence patterns in monospecific
lodgepole pine forests in the upper Kern River drainage of the Sierra Nevada. Excerpts
from this paper appear below. For the entire paper, or for more information, please
contact Tony Caprio (ext. 3126).

Within the range of lodgepole pine, fire has been recognized as an important ecological
process in the ―interior‖ Rocky Mountain variety, with stand replacing fires occurring at
100 to 400 year intervals. This contrasts to the Sierra Nevada where fire has generally
not been recognized as having had a significant ecological influence on monospecific
stands of this species. Since only limited information is available about lodgepole pine in
the Sierra, this study examined fire-scarred trees and reconstructed fire history on
Chagoopa Plateau in the Kern River drainage of Sequoia National Park.

The Chagoopa Plateau is bounded on the east by the Kern River Trench and to the west
and south by the Big Arroyo drainage, both deeply incised by glacial activity. Vegetation
on the plateau is dominated by lodgepole pine which grades into foxtail pine on higher
elevation sites and xeric conifer at lower elevations.

Ninety-three trees were sampled in 19 different sites. By identifying fire scars on past
growth rings, seventeen fire events were dated between A.D. 1385 and 2000. Fire event
dates showed a number of wide-spread fires on the plateau in 1751, 1806, 1815, 1846,
and 1996.

The frequency of pre-Euro-American fires on Chagoopa Plateau was unexpected.
Assumptions about fire regimes in this community have usually suggested that fire was
rare or that fires were small and not important or that frequencies were long – in the
order of every 100 to 200 years.

A question that cannot be answered by the current results is what past pattern of fire
severity occurred across the landscape. The many trees with multiple fire scars indicate
that fires were often not stand replacing.

Conclusion – The results of this study suggest fire‘s role in lodgepole pine, in at least
some areas of its range in the Sierra Nevada, may be quite different than expected and
that fire may have a significant ecological influence. The geographic differences that
exist may relate to local variations in site productivity and the frequency and scale of

Xeric Conifer Vegetation
Over the past few years discussions have occurred about fire effects in xeric conifer
vegetation. These are primarily open-to-moderately-closed stands of Jeffrey pine with a
manzanita understory. These frequently burn with a high intensity headfire through the
shrub understory with considerable impacts to overstory trees. Many of these trees are

                                                                 Naturalist‘s Notebook 2004 - Chapter Four

old-growth—many centuries old—indicating they survived repeated past fires (also
documented by fire history data). The question raised is whether vegetation and/or fuels
in this community have changed so dramatically since the 1860s that fire restoration
under current prescriptions is having negative impacts. Since additional burns are
planned in this type a monitoring unit is being developed and plots installed as burn
plans are written and burns occur. Similar concerns are being raised for other xeric
forest communities, i.e. western juniper and single-leaf piñon pine. These two
communities have limited distributions in SEKI and are thus susceptible to long-term
negative impacts.

Sudden Oak Death and Fire
Presented below is a condensed version of an August 15, 2004 editorial by Richard A. Lovett that
appeared in the Sacramento Bee. Lovett is a science writer who lives in Portland, Ore.

California Environment: How sudden oak death is transforming the state
California's oaks are dying. Not all of them and not the ones around Sacramento, but enough to
raise questions about whether the Golden State's ecology is about to be wildly altered.

The problem is a blight called sudden oak death, which started cropping up in 1995 and has since
killed tens of thousands of trees, mostly in the coastal mountains between Big Sur and northern
Sonoma County. In places, the blight is so extensive that entire hillsides have been devastated,
says David Rizzo, a plant pathologist at the University of California, Davis. The disease has also
shown up in nursery trees shipped to at least 17 other states and in Europe, raising concerns that
it may rapidly spread across the globe.

Sudden oak death is caused by a fungus called Phytophthora ramorum, which invades the trunks
of tanoaks and coast live oaks. Tanoaks are common in redwood forests; coast live oaks are the
dominant species in much of the rest of the Coast Ranges.

The name "sudden oak death" is a bit of a misnomer. The disease actually infects trees for
several years, invading their trunks and causing them to ooze reddish sap that looks disturbingly
like blood. Eventually, the infection spreads completely around the trunk, girdling the tree and
preventing the flow of sap. That's when the tree dies. From a distance, it does appear to be
sudden because until the infection cuts off the sap, the tree looks green and healthy. Then, its
branches die, all at once.

Scientists are scrambling to understand the disease and find ways to control it. So far, much of
the news is bleak. Early this month, at a meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Portland,
Ore., Letty Brown, an environmental science graduate student at UC Berkeley, reported that the
infection might be even more destructive than had previously been thought.

Prior studies had found that Phytophthora infected from 4 percent to 30 percent of the coast live
oak in any given patch, and from 20 percent to 70 percent of tanoak. But Brown found that up to
27 percent of the coast live oak within her study plots died in the two-year interval from 2002 to
'04. (Her research focused only on coast live oak, and not the even-more-susceptible tanoak.) If
you add in recently dead trees that were probably killed by sudden oak death, plus living trees
showing symptoms of Phytophthora infection, the death rate in her most heavily infected plots
may soon exceed 60 percent. And that's not counting any still-healthy trees that might yet
succumb to the disease.

UC Berkeley ecologist Max Moritz believes that the future may not be completely bleak. In yet
another study presented at the ecology meeting in Portland, he argued that controlled burns
might someday play a role in preventing the spread of the disease.

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Ecologists have long believed that fire suppression may play a role in making ecosystems
vulnerable to disease outbreaks. The argument is that the buildup of excess vegetation forces
plants to compete too strongly for light, water and nutrients, reducing their ability to fight off

In seeing whether this applies to sudden oak death, Moritz compared the locations of known
infected zones to those where fires have occurred since 1950. He found that infections were
strongly concentrated in regions where fire had been absent.

Remarkably, he says, fires that occurred 20, 30, 40 or 50 years ago, decades before the first
case of sudden oak death was observed, are affecting the current resistance to it.

Moritz has several hypotheses for why this might be the case. One is simply the weakening effect
of dense vegetation on plants' disease resistance. But another factor is that California bay laurels
(whose leaves can play host to the nonfatal form of the mold) change their chemistry as trees
age. Young trees have leaves that produce large amounts of aromatic chemicals called phenols,
which serve as natural antibiotics. But as the trees age, the amounts of phenols go down. Fire
resets the cycle by burning out the old bay laurel and allowing disease-resistant young plants to
grow in its place.

Another factor is that soil chemistry changes with the length of time since the last fire. In
particular, fire increases the amount of calcium in the soil, and calcium, Moritz says, is an
important factor in disease resistance.

Rizzo agrees that fire is probably an important part of the sudden oak death story, and he
applauds Moritz's efforts to figure out the link. He's concerned, though, that the full story might
prove to be quite complicated. His own studies, he says, have indicated that the healthiest trees
are the most susceptible to infection.

"It may turn out that areas that burned 30 years ago are more resistant to invasion," he says, "but
once the cat's out of the bag (i.e., the disease has become established), fire may or may not


How to Plan and Complete a Prescribed Fire
Visitors and neighbors often ask, ―How do you actually do a prescribed burn?‖ There are
many steps in the process which include early planning, communicating with our
partners, and implementing safe firefighting tactics on the day of the burn. What does
this actually mean? Well, imagine that the parks are getting ready for a fictitious
prescribed fire called the Pine Needle Fire. Below is the planning progression that fire
managers would work through to implement the burn safely and within policy.

   Complete annual fuels treatment plan – Before fire season, SEKI completes an
    annual fuels treatment plan which lists all the prescribed fire and mechanical fuel
    reduction projects for the upcoming season. (The Pine Needle fire is one of 12
    projects listed.)
   Obtain approval for annual plan from in-park Fire Management Committee and the

                                                          Naturalist‘s Notebook 2004 - Chapter Four

   Submit annual plan to the Air District for their information. The District does not
    have authority to approve or reject this overall annual plan.
   Assign burn bosses to individual projects – The Pine Needle burn boss scouts
    the area so that the burn plan can be written.
   Complete burn plans – The Pine Needle burn boss completes the formal written
    burn plan by pay period 15. The plan is technically reviewed by an outside peer (in
    this case the Sequoia National Forest).
   Submit burn plan and the smoke permit to the Air District under Rule 4106 –
    The Air District reviews the Pine Needle burn plan and associated permit. They are
    required to inform SEKI of approval or request changes within 14 days.
   Initiate prep work – Crews construct necessary fireline as outlined in the burn plan.
   Set date for burn – In the days leading up to a prescribed burn, fire managers
    monitor fuels and weather against the prescriptive criteria in the burn plan. They
    communicate daily with Air District personnel to choose a day with the best possible
    conditions for fire control and smoke dispersal.
   Notify the public once the date has been set for the burn (where, when, etc.)
   Secure necessary firefighting resources for Pine Needle burn including
    contingency resources.

On Day of Ignition
   Obtain Superintendent go/no-go decision for ignition.
   Obtain approval from the Air District to proceed with ignition.
   Continue public information activities – Since the Pine Needle burn is located
    near park roads, interpreters are assigned to rove in the fire area.
   Hold briefing to review burn plan and safety procedures with firefighters.
   Ignite a test-fire
   Burn boss makes final go/no-go decision on ignition.
   The Pine Needle burn begins…

Role-Playing Public Contacts About Smoke
Multiple Choice: What would you do if a person came up to your visitor center desk
complaining about the smoke from a park prescribed fire?
    a)   Run into the back room and get your supervisor
    b)   Pretend you don‘t speak English
    c)   Agree with him and say you think the park fire managers are incompetent
    d)   Sympathize with his feelings and give accurate information about why we burn,
         how we manage smoke, and what visitors can do to minimize their exposure.

If you answered ―d,‖ you are correct! But how can this be done? Confrontational
situations are never fun but you have the power, as an educated interpreter, to turn a
negative encounter into a positive one. Listen to people‘s concerns and respond to them
honestly and with specific information. When they walk away, they still might not agree
with the prescribed burn program, but they will be left with the impression that the park
fire management program is based on science and that NPS staff members are
forthcoming with information. Please study the following 14 talking points. Armed with
this information, you will be able to help visitors this summer.

                                                           Naturalist‘s Notebook 2004 - Chapter Four

1. Wildland fire smoke fits into a larger regional air quality situation.
   The scenic vistas in the parks, especially in the summer, are highly obscured by
   regional haze. Haze is caused when sunlight encounters tiny particles in the air.
   These particles may be the result of either natural events or human activities.
   According to the local Air District, over 95% of the particulate pollution in our area
   originates from Central Valley sources (i.e. motor vehicles, industrial fuel burning,
   manufacturing, and agriculture). Less than 5% comes from wildland fire in the Sierra

2. Park managers are sensitive to smoke impacts for visitors and employees.
   The Sequoia and Kings Canyon fire and fuels management program is committed to
   balancing the needs of park resources and people. While fire has always been a
   natural part of this ecosystem, our current society presents unique conditions. Today,
   there are more people than ever living near or visiting Sequoia and Kings Canyon.
   Every fire management action considers this fact when determining incident

3. The parks work closely with the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution
   Control District to balance the fire and fuels management program with health
   and visibility issues.

   The Air District is currently classified as ―Extreme Non-Attainment‖ for ozone and
   ―Serious Non-Attainment‖ for PM-10. To help the district achieve the National
   Ambient Air Quality Standards, Sequoia and Kings Canyon burns during optimal
   weather conditions, utilizes optimal ignition techniques, estimates project emissions,
   projects the anticipated smoke plume path, provides extensive public
   education/awareness, and coordinates with neighboring land management agencies
   and air districts.

4. The parks have the ability to monitor particulate levels in Sequoia and Kings
   Canyon during smoke events.
   As soon as the park anticipates a smoke event with the ability to affect people, air
   quality technicians begin operating a Smoke and Weather Monitoring Station. This
   station measures particulate levels in the air. Particulates are solid particles
   produced by things like vehicle emissions, agricultural activities, and fires. The
   module records levels every hour and then computes a 24-hour average which
   correlates to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) established by the
   Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This information is shared with the Air

5. Smoke, like fire, is a natural ecosystem component.
   While it is a health concern for humans, plants have adapted to live with smoke just
   as they have many other natural elements of the environment. Scientists have
   discovered that some plants might even depend on smoke for their survival. A
   scientific study looked specifically at the low elevation chaparral plant communities.
   In the laboratory, scientists exposed various seeds to heat and charring, as in a fire,
   and certain species remained dormant. When the same seeds were exposed to
   smoke, germination occurred. While some plants, like the giant sequoia, use heat

                                                           Naturalist‘s Notebook 2004 - Chapter Four

   from fires for seed dispersal, it now appears that other plants rely on smoke for

6. Some characteristics of smoke accumulation are predictable because they are
   based on daytime and nighttime winds.
   Up-slope or up-canyon breezes occur during the day which will often take smoke into
   higher elevations. At night, these winds change direction and bring smoke down-
   slope to the lower elevations.

7. Some characteristics of smoke accumulation are not predictable since they are
   dependent on atmospheric conditions.
   With unstable atmospheric conditions, smoke from wildland fires is mostly lofted up
   to very high elevations where it disperses. When atmospheric conditions are stable,
   perhaps with an inversion layer, smoke can be trapped at lower elevations.

8. Due to the deliberate nature of prescribed fire, audiences can be notified prior
   to the smoke event about what to expect.
   (For example) ―During the week of ignition, visitors traveling through the area will
   smell and possibly see smoke. Smoke will likely be visible from [specific location].
   The smoke will most likely settle in lower elevations during the early morning.‖

9. During prescribed burns, fire managers utilize smoke management techniques.
   (For example) ―The entire burn segment is 925 acres, but is split into two sections for
   smoke management reasons. A fire line has been constructed inside the segment
   where the fire can be held if smoke production is a problem. The burn boss plans to
   ignite 30-40 acres per day to minimize smoke output. This will increase the duration
   of the smoke event but will decrease the ambient level of smoke at any one time.‖

10. Small natural fires have the potential to become large fires.
    (For example) ―Burning in heavy mixed conifer fuels, the newly discovered [Name]
    Fire has the potential to expand across hundreds of acres over the next several
    months. This fire was naturally-caused and will be naturally-extinguished with rain or
    snow. A ‗season-ending event‘ bringing more than ½-inch of rain over a 3-day period
    usually occurs in October.‖

11. There are ways of minimizing smoke output in a fire use project without
    suppressing the fire.
    (For example) ―While the park hopes to maximize resource benefits by allowing this
    fire to spread naturally, managers have at least two ways of reducing smoke in
    special situations. Hand crews can install fire line in strategic locations to contain
    certain areas of the fire. In extreme smoke situations, fire managers can drop water
    on hotspots. Unlike water drops in suppression actions, these drops are not meant to
    halt fire movement, but slow it down and reduce smoke.‖

12. There are ways for park residents and neighbors to reduce their exposure to
    Smoke concentrations can be avoided by following a few simple rules. Close
    windows, doors, and outside vents when it is smoky to prevent accumulations
    indoors. Run your air conditioner, if you have one. Keep the fresh air intake closed

                                                             Naturalist‘s Notebook 2004 - Chapter Four

   and keep the filter clean. Ventilate your home and work place during periods of little
   smoke. Avoid physical activities while smoke is dense. Paper masks are designed to
   trap large dust particles, not the tiny particles found in smoke. These masks
   generally will not protect your lungs from wildland fire smoke.

   Residents of communities affected by smoke from wildland fires and prescribed fires
   are encouraged to practice good health habits. A healthy immune system is the best
   protection against the effects of smoke. Immune function is enhanced with regular
   moderate physical activity, good nutrition, hydration, and adequate rest. (From USDA
   Forest Service publication Health Hazards of Smoke: Spring 2001).

13. Breathing smoke is not healthy for anyone, but some people are at greater
    People with heart or lung disease, such as congestive heart disease, chronic
    obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema or asthma are at greater risk. Children
    and the elderly are also more susceptible to smoke. These people are advised to use
    caution and avoid physical activity while heavy smoke is present.

   The risks of occasional exposure to fine particulate and other components of
   vegetative smoke are minimal for healthy individuals. However, elevated levels of
   smoke that persist for months or years increase the risk of heart and respiratory
   disease, especially among the elderly and individuals with pre-existing respiratory or
   cardiovascular illness. (From USDA Forest Service publication Health Hazards of
   Smoke: Spring 2001).

14. The Air Quality Index (AQI) is one tool that helps the park, visitors, and
    employees quantify daily air quality conditions.
    Established by the Environmental Protection Agency and adopted by the states, the
    Air Quality Index (AQI) is a tool for reporting daily air quality conditions. Using
    numeric information from sensors like particulate monitors, the AQI tells you how
    clean or polluted your air is, and what associated health concerns you should be
    aware of. The AQI focuses on health effects that can happen within a few hours or
    days after breathing polluted air. You can think of the AQI as a yardstick that runs
    from 0 to 500. The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the
    greater the health danger. The Index identifies six conditions: good (0 to 50),
    moderate (51 to 100), unhealthy for sensitive groups (101 to 150), unhealthy (151 to
    200), very unhealthy (201 to 300), and hazardous (over 300).‖ (Park Visitor Centers
    have wooden exhibits that display this information daily.)

Bad Fire Seasons and the Wildland Urban Interface
Why do fire seasons in the last five years seem so bad? It‘s not
just because of drought; we‘ve been through droughts before.
It‘s not a lack of fire personnel; funding for wildland fire has
grown. It‘s not because there are more fires. Fire seasons seem
so different now because our society experiences the effects of
more fires. Why is this true?

Recent fire severity is largely the result of two things: urban
expansion into surrounding wildlands and the hazard fuel
accumulations in those wildlands from a century of fire

                                                            Naturalist‘s Notebook 2004 - Chapter Four

suppression. Many of our forests are choked with dead and down fuel and now these
fire-prone areas also hold private homes that are often adjacent to federal land. Inside
this ―wildland urban interface,‖ more structures will be threatened by fire simply because
of where they are located. Not only are people and property at risk, but wildland
firefighters are put in the position of protecting indefensible homes rather than trying to
contain or control a wildland blaze. So you‘ve got more people in the wildland and more
fuel in the wildland. This equation certainly leads to more first-hand experiences with fire.

The good news is that many homeowners and residents in the wildland urban
interface are becoming more proactive about creating defensible space around their
property and community. Firewise Communities is an organization geared at
providing fire education for residents. You can find great tips on their website
( and pass them along to visitors.

When you remove humans from the equation, recent fire seasons are perhaps not so
different from past years. Many fires have burned large numbers of acres and helped
restore natural conditions, but were largely unnoticed due to their location in remote
backcountry wilderness. In some areas, where hazard fuels might cause devastating
effects with an unplanned fire, federal agencies try to reduce those fuels with mechanical
reduction or prescribed burning. In most cases, fire is the best agent for restoration. But
now, with a growing wildland urban interface, prescribed fires take on a whole new level
of risk.

That risk was realized in 2000 at Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico.
Attempting to reduce hazardous fuels near the park boundary, the NPS ignited a
prescribed fire on May 4, which was declared a wildfire within 24 hours. Five days later,
the Cerro Grande fire became a national story as it burned hundreds of residences in
Los Alamos and ultimately 47,650 acres in the surrounding area, which had not burned
in over a century.

Cerro Grande is the perfect example of the hazard fuel problem surrounding many U.S.
communities. What is the lesson learned? The federal agencies cannot solve the
problem alone, nor can communities. We must work together to make change, and
changes have already occurred that affect all levels of the fire management structure.
Some changes applied only to parks, and others were larger interagency or agency-
specific issues.

After Cerro Grande, the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture instituted a 30-
day prescribed fire moratorium for all federal agencies west of the 100 th meridian.
This moratorium was lifted for other federal agencies after one month, but extended
for the NPS.

The NPS ban was lifted in March 2001. Investigators completed reviews of the incident
and proposed improvements in the prescribed fire process, inlcuding new requirements
for burn plans. The good news is that many of these new requirements have been a part
of SEKI‘s burn plan process for a number of years already. One change, however, is the
―technical review‖ process. Each burn plan must be reviewed by a person from outside
the park (with knowledge of fire and the geographic area of the burn). For SEKI, we will
probably use people in the regional office (San Francisco), Yosemite, and our peers at
the Sequoia and Sierra National Forests. While this will prolong the preparation of burn
plans, it is a positive step for our planning process in the eyes of the public.


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